This is one mokuhanga chore that I prefer to
put off as long as possible…conditioning printing brushes.
New brushes, such as these two, need a little work before using.
The bristles (either horse or hog hair)
need to be singed and the tips split.
What’s the point you ask?
Singeing and splitting the bristle tips results in a
softer, more absorbent brush. Plus, it’s less
likely to leave unsightly streaks on the block from rice paste
I skip the singeing step altogether and head right to the
“dragon skin”, which is a perforated metal plate
nailed to a wood board. Traditionally, in Japan,
a shark skin (yes, a real shark skin) is stretched
and nailed onto a board.
After soaking the brushes in water for a bit, they’re scrubbed
vigorously over the surface of the dragon skin to split the tips.
This takes quite a bit of time, as long as 30 minutes,
As you can see in the above photo, the water
turns black, and stinky too.
The odor is akin to being inside a barn…
full of wet barnyard animals…on a hot summer day.
Sadly, this is not a one time chore,
but needs to be done periodically to keep the brushes
in tip-top shape.